Feb. 29, 2012
Demonstration turns used cooking oil into biodiesel
Fifth graders from Brenham Middle School got to see first-hand how simple chemistry can create alternative energy sources during a demonstration on Blinn College’s Brenham campus on Wednesday.
Natural science instructor Dr. Greg Phillips showed the students how used cooking oil could be turned into biodiesel by simply adding methanol and potassium hydroxide. When the chemicals are mixed with the oil, they snap off the glycerin particle of the fat, leaving behind the biodiesel. The whole process takes just 15 minutes before students see the separation of the glycerin layer and the biodiesel.
After the glycerin has been removed, water is poured through the biodiesel to remove impurities before it is ready for use. Engine manufacturers recommend blending 80 percent regular diesel with 20 percent biodiesel.
“Our students are motivated by participating in the hands-on experience Blinn and Dr. Phillips offer them,” Brenham Middle School teacher Janis Kmiec said. “They understand society’s need for alternative energy sources, so they’re very interested in programs such as this.”
About two gallons of biodiesel were produced during the demonstration, and Blinn typically produces more than 200 gallons each year during its work with its own natural science classes. Blinn donates the biodiesel to Brenham ISD and Durham School Services free of charge.
Phillips said the biodiesel typically costs about $1 per gallon to produce.
The Brenham Middle School students were part of the school’s Challenging Scientific Investigations, a science-based program that integrates technology and other subjects. About 50 students were on hand Wednesday.
“Throughout the course of the year, the students in the CSI program are receiving a lot of unique enrichment, and we’re bringing all of them to the Blinn campus, which is a grand opportunity to show them that we have higher education right here in town,” Phillips said.
“The more we can interact with them and provide resources for the public schools the better it is for everybody.”